Showing posts from August, 2012

What is spiritual fasting?

There are various reasons people fast – to lose weight, protest injustice, and so on. To go on a spiritual fast is to abstain from something for the purpose of drawing close to God. That something could be necessities like food or drink, or sources of comfort like chocolate or television. The standard biblical practice is to abstain from food and/or drink. 
There are many ways to fast. I’ll suggest one. When I was in Haiti after the earthquake, Haitian political leaders called a three-day fast so people would pray for the ravaged country. With thousands of buildings down and 230,000 people suddenly dead or dying, the country had literally been brought to its knees. The Haitian practice of fasting, at least where we were, was to set aside the hours of 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM to abstain from food and/or drink as much as possible, and devote oneself to prayer. Part of the day was given to time together, worshiping and praying in groups, and part was for time to continue praying and worshipin…

The power of believing in someone

In his letter to Philemon, Paul asks his friend Philemon to do something extraordinary and costly. A man named Onesimus is with Paul. Onesimus is a slave who has run away from Philemon's house. He is a fugitive from the law who has found his way into Paul's sphere of influence and become a Christian. Paul is legally liable if he harbors Onesimus, but he doesn't want Onesimus to be executed. What will he do?

He sends Onesimus back to Philemon with a personal letter requesting that Philemon not execute or even punish his slave. What is more, Paul wants Philemon to make Onesimus a free man so he can spend his time serving the gospel.

We might notice that in his letter, Paul shows great confidence in Philemon. Paul doesn't play the pessimist, saying, "I know my request is probably too extreme. I would be shocked if you followed through." Rather, he stands as an optimist and prays that as Philemon follows through, he would experience God's blessings (v. 6).


Making a commitment to live in God's presence

There is no greater calling or privilege than prayer. I keep getting better at it, and yet I struggle. I find it necessary to keep reading books on prayer so I can be keep on my toes. Otherwise I regress.

Lately as I have been working on a chapter of a forthcoming book on living in God's presence, I have re-read Brother Lawrence's Practice of the Presence of God. It has energized me. Honestly, there is nothing I want more in life than to live closely with God at all times. Brother Lawrence wanted the same thing, and through much trial and error, he found a simple way of praying that changed his life. He simply directed his attention to God at all times.

Once he committed to this practice, he never turned back. However, it took years of training before he had a major breakthrough, after which things came much easier. The commitment was something like this: "God is more loving to me than I could ever deserve. I am convinced that my only business in this life is to please hi…

Prayer is 90% desire and 10% words

What is prayer? The most common answer is that prayer is talking with God. If that's all prayer is, then get ready for a boring relationship with God. I have experienced this and observed it in others: when prayer is words, it eventually becomes words without life. It becomes like reading the phone book to God. "God, please remember so-and-so, and so-and-so, and so-and-so." It is mind-numbingly boring. We rattle off something or other because it's the right thing to do. "There. I prayed for so-and-so. Done." When we pray this way, prayer becomes dry as sawdust. We want more, and God does too.

Prayer is supposed to be deep and vibrant. Contrast "phone book prayer" with the way the apostle Paul prayed for his friends in the church at Philippi.
"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for you, I always pray with joy, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it through to completion until the d…